Mittwoch, 8. Juli 2015

The rise of Jan Frodeno, hottest male contender for 2015 Ironman World Championship Hawaii

Prior 2008 Bejing Olympic Games, German Jan Frodeno, raised in South Africa, was on a mission. The beach boy wanted the Olympic Gold medal in triathlon. His hunger was so badly, that he decided to just train-eat-sleep-repeat month over month in Saarbrücken (Germany), Deutsche Triathlon Union's (German sports governing body) training facilities with his training squad. There was no plan B, just plan A. Add another discipline in that training regime: optimize and rethink strategy and efforts. Frodeno, well known as high mileage worker, prepared for a sprint finish during his months in training and every spectator knew what happened in Beijing: "Frodo" won, leaving the biggest names behind him.
Jan Frodeno shocked competition with new course record, new race strategy with focus on the bike. His splits: swim 0:46:02, bike 4:08:43, run 2:50:49. Photo: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for IRONMAN

In the following years Frodeno fell over the very thin edge of overtraining, got injured and wasn't able to adapt to the new demands of a year long Olympic World Series on a very high level. Bad luck in terms of weather marked a career low in Budapest, where he lost the World Series title after his Gold medal in very cold conditions.

He's a big and tall guy, even beeing one of the skinniest in terms of body fat composition his long extremities add to weight and vulnerabily to injury, but he likes hot weather a lot. The coffee lover with his own brand Frodissimo is a one day peak performer for sure. London Olympics saw him just recovering from injury, but with a very solid Top 10 finish. The build-up was one more indicator, how Frodeno can tackle obstacles. But deep inside the strong swim-runner knew already, that the likes of Alistair Brownlee and his brother Jonathan as well as Javier Gomez are difficult to beat all year long. Time for a change. This change would likely have come a bit later, if Frodeno didn't accepted an invitation to Ironman World Championship from his bike sponsor at the time to spectate. The man was hooked with all that vibrant activity going on during pre-race week in Kona.

His appearances on 70.3 in Wiesbaden and abroad, as well as long distance races in Frankfurt and Kona later were really impressive, despite the fact he had to overcome serious (technical) issues in all of those races: ripped wetsuit, lost drink bottles, lost transition bag, multiple flat tires, bike penalty, etc. The list goes on and on. The pre-race favourite was still able to finish all of these races on the podium. Categorized as talented swim-runner he lost a year of opportunities to win both major titles in Ironman in 2014 already, the European and World Championships. Sebastian Kienle, another German Uberbiker filled the spot very well with his state of the art biking, solid running performances and a steady improvement in his swim.

2015 began with bad luck for Frodeno again, two bike crashes left him with a niggling knee injury, which forced him to focus on the swim and bike parts of his athletic mix. 10 weeks with no or a bit running should convince him, that's it's in Ironman way more important to damage the competition in Kona on the bike and be able to run solid on very tired legs. On 5. July 2015 the audience saw a historic wire-to-wire victory in Frankfurt, close to record breaking performances of Luc van Lierde in Roth and Kona. No weakness at all, minor obstacles (visor on helmet, lost bottle) to overcome, a very impressive race record (7:49:48) and even more astounishing and competion shocking bike record (4:08:43) on very hot conditions up to 39-40°C. How Frodeno crushed competition is similar to Craig Alexander's Ironman Hawii record breaking comeback. The year before fellow Australian rival Chris McCormack took away his title, isolating him on the bike with an alliance working against him in 2009. Crowie came back strong on the bike and killed everyone with his bike-run mix.

Jan Frodeno is the man to beat in 2015 and 2016 and has the opportunity to be the first athlete in the World to win both Olympic Gold and Kona. His competition, including reigning World Champion Sebastian Kienle has to get back to homework how to beat this man. We might see the begin of the Jan Frodeno legacy.

In 2017 or 2018, Ironman Hawaii will likely see the next step of performances and evolution. The triathlon industry evolves, thermal regulation and cooling gets mainstream, bikes get even better, saving a few watts at every edge of the bikes and equipment. Javier Gomez could step up after the 2016 Rio Olympics to the full-distance. The Spaniard proved already, that he can succeed on all kind of distances: drafting, non-drafting, sprint, Olympic, 70.3, XTERRA. He has a similar package like Jan Frodeno as well, with slight advantages on the swim and run segments. A battle in 2017 or 2018 between Frodeno and Gomez in peak performance could be historic and epic. World Triathlon Corporation as business owner should nurture this opportunity having two of the biggest role models in triathlon on their home turf in near future.